Mushin – art of the empty mind / mind without mind

mushin

Although cultural differences around the world seem to be gradually diminishing thanks to the media, social networks and massive travel, they are certainly not being completely erased. Fortunately for us – a few decades of the Internet and the subsequent expansion of social networks cannot erase centuries to millennia of ancient different traditions, customs and philosophies. Although we see many young people in Asia comparing themselves to our Western culture, we Westerners still have a lot to inspire and learn from ancient Eastern philosophies.Buddha statue

Mushin

One of these inspirational concepts is the Japanese term “mushin” – a fascinating form of meditation and mental state that can significantly affect the way a person lives and leads his life.

The word “mushin” consists of two kanji characters: 無 (mu), which means “emptiness,” and 心 (shin), which means “heart,” “spirit,” or in this case, “mind.” Mushin can be roughly translated to “nothing on the mind” or “no mind.” It comes from a longer phrase used in Zen Buddhism, “無心 の 心” (mushin no shin), or “mind without thinking.”

What is mushin?

Mushin is a state of mind where your mind is empty of all thoughts, desires, ideas and assumptions. When your mind is clear, you are free from your ego and you are able to act spontaneously and fluently without emotion or hesitation. That way, your mind is opened to everything.

It is a concept that is important in many traditional Japanese arts such as ikebana flower arranging, a beautiful style of shodo calligraphy or sumi-e ink painting, but especially for Asian martial arts such as aikido.

The discipline and awareness of the present moment are very important for these arts. Through mushin, artists or fighters achieve great concentration and sensitivity. When their mind is clear, their work is intuitive and flows from the subconscious.

History

The first mention of mushin comes from the famous Zen Buddhist monk of the 17th century (but also a prominent Japanese poet, painter, calligrapher, expert in the tea ceremony) and, among other things, the excellent swordsman Takuan Soho (1573-1645) in The Unleashed Mind. In this work he combines aspects of Zen Buddhism with martial arts. The following paragraph provides an excellent explanation of what happens in the mind when in the mushin state:

“When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he is not to think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetful of all technique, is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man`s subconscious that strikes.”

Such a pure state of mind, pure mental clarity, means that the mind is not firm, busy with thoughts or emotions, and therefore open to everything. Present, conscious and free.

This state is attained when the mind is freed from anger, fear, distracting thoughts, ego, and judgments. One is absolutely free to act and respond to situations without fear and without being disturbed by external factors. At this point, he doesn’t rely on what he thinks the next move should be, but what his naturally trained reactions are, or what he feels intuitive. However, it is not a state of relaxation close to sleep. We can say that the mind works very fast, but without intention, plan or direction.

Mushin in the western world

Mushin is a Japanese concept rooted in Zen Buddhism. But a certain version of mushin can be found in many different arts and disciplines around the world. For example, an athlete on the track also experiences some form of mushin. He must free himself from conscious thinking in order to “only” run. Although, for example, their extreme sharpness of concentration is called something else. The same can be said about actors whenever they improvise or get lost in a character. They must absolutely clear their minds of their ego so that they can respond quickly and appropriately to situations.

Why could it be useful for us?

Mushin is a very useful concept that we can be inspired by in many different life situations. Whatever your field, if you try to free your mind from the inner hustle and bustle of premature judgments and assumptions, you will stop evaluating possible failures in advance, but you will perceive only the present moment and immerse yourself only in the task, then maybe you can also experience mushin. It could even help you with your efforts, whether you’re an athlete, a creative person, or just need to focus better. It’s something worth thinking about.

Please follow and like us:

Kaizen – small regular steps to self-improvement

Kaizen - small regular steps to self-improvementAlmost every one of us, regardless of age, would “sometimes” need or simply want to learn something new or “just” to improve in something. And not only in the professional life level, but also in the private one. Whether it is to learn a foreign language properly, improve your physical condition, or even fulfill your secret desire to learn to dance or paint pictures.

Having time is just awareness and layout of your priorities

But we often postpone it because we don’t feel we have enough time for it yet. Sometimes, for example, after the New Year’s resolutions, we are really going to do it with great determination. And very intensely. But soon we will loose strength, time, taste. The results are not what we expected. Our original enthusiasm disappears and we perceive it all as our failure. And this, together with a lot of our everyday responsibilities, will often drive us to a new / further postponement of “… when there is more time”.

Technology has significantly accelerated our pace of life, but has not given us any more time.time-lapse photography of highway road at night

Despite the new and ever-accelerating technologies that are supposed to make our working and private lives easier, we almost all have a constant feeling of “lack of time and need for rush”. That is why we would like to do everything quickly and, if possible, immediately in perfect form. We would like to speak a foreign language quickly, preferably immediately as a native speaker; lose weight quickly and have a perfect figure from the magazine, handle all dance steps perfectly as a professional dancer, or paint a picture like a gallery right away.

Sometimes we strive for too radical personal changes, our ideas and demands on ourselves are too exaggerated. Instead of doing something little by little, we are wasting our time finding ways to achieve “success” as quickly as possible. But if you think about all the people we admire for what they really do, no one has achieved their success overnight.

Kaizen – change for the better

But sometimes small, but regular steps are enough. Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short time, try every day a little improvement that gradually leads to the change you want. It will not exhaust you after a short time and you will not feel that you have to neglect your normal duties and habits.

And this is also the main idea of the Japanese Kaizen philosophy, applicable both in business and in our private life.

kaizenThe word “kaizen” is a combination of two Japanese words “kai” and “zen”. “Kai” is literally a change, so in a rough Japanese translation, kaizen means “change for the better”, which simply expresses its essence – continuous gradual improvement.

The principle of Kaizen in 10 main points

  1. Strive for continuous improvement. Things can always be better no matter how good or bad they are now.
  2. Always question stereotypes. If necessary, get rid of the old to make way for the new.
  3. Get wisdom from many people rather than rely on one expert.
  4. Don’t waste your time talking about excuses, but focus on finding solutions.
  5. Make sure your decisions are based on facts rather than opinions.
  6. Get to the root cause of the situation or problem by asking “Why?” At least five times.
  7. Before you spend money to solve a problem, look for simple and inexpensive solutions.
  8. Always question the status quo.
  9. Start upgrading now, even if you don’t have all the answers yet.
  10. Don’t underestimate yourself. Do not be discouraged in your journey by occasional setbacks.

Be a little better every daygray rock formation

So the real key to understanding and applying Kaizen is to focus on the idea of continuous improvement.

Every day, just focus on getting a little better than last day. Feel free to think about the smallest step you can take every day, which can gradually move you to your destination. Only about 1%.

It may not seem much, but even such 1% per day will add up. In the beginning, your improvement will be so small that it will seem almost non-existent. But gradually you begin to notice the improvement. It may take months or even years to feel that you have achieved what you wanted. But the result will come. And it will be more durable than when you start with a determined and very intense action and after a while you run out of breath.

And that sometimes you feel that you are not improving or that you are not doing it? Life is not a marathon. Stopping running for a while should not disqualify you. Sometimes just more, sometimes less. But we should also accept and not be subjected to occasional failures or negative emotions of defeat…

 

Please follow and like us:

Frosty beauty of winter nature

I am one of those people who love warmth. Which is not always the case in the local climate. I live in a part of the world where, despite global warming, we still have four very different seasons in nature – budding spring, hot summer, misty autumn and cold winter. Even though their transition is sometimes very fast, sometimes we feel as if one reflected in the other.

I’m amazed by the spring nature every year again and again. I love long summer evenings in the garden. I admire the incredible colourful beauty of autumn. But since the beginning of winter, I count how many months and weeks remain until my springtime amazement.

It does not help that, unlike most of the Czech nation, I do not really enjoy winter sports either. Besides winter walks. And it is just helping me to see the winter months a little more positive.  In a warm coat and wool cap, I admire the beautiful pictures of snowy or just frozen landscapes, the “artistic” creations as if sleeping nature, and the abstract paintings in the ice.

At home, when I look (in warmth next to the fireplace, and best with a cup of hot chocolate or mulled wine in my hand) what the lens of my camera or just my mobile has captured, I’m surprised to see how many colourful beauties you can find outside in this seemingly monochromatic season of the year. Special beauty with a great deal of melancholy. Nevertheless, especially the ice abstract creations of nature are at least comparable with many works by famous artists, are they not?

 


 

Please follow and like us:

We are ageing because we are living

Years ago, when I was trying to briefly introduce the principle of wabi-sabi to my friend Jana, she sighed: “What a pity that wabi-sabi way of seeing the beauty of imperfection, cannot be applied to us, to our wrinkles.”But why not? It actually calls itself for a much more positive view of our gradual loss of youth, or of our inevitable ageing.

Zdroj: Pinterest
Source: Pinterest
Wabi-sabi refers to a deeper perception of inner beauty and life itself,  of the beauty of imperfection, impermanence, melancholy.  It is not based on youth and flourishing, but rather it believes that everything is always more beautiful when it reveals signs of the time and its individuality.

Why are we constantly dealing with the question of our ageing?

Zdroj: loonylabs.org
Source: loonylabs.org

The average age is constantly prolonging, medicine is constantly making new discoveries, the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry is bombarding us with new and more effective rejuvenating agents and other anti-ageing products, awareness of the need to maintain our physical fitness level increases. Still, we are negatively pointing to our ageing increasingly early. Increasingly earlier we observe (or even search for) those small external changes on us – shortcomings and we are struggling to fight them earlier and earlier. But most of all we are worrying about them. And that even for decades before we really are close to being old.

ageing

In nature, everything is in the state of a process (and later of disintegration), and we are simply not excluded from this process. Maybe it sounds cruel, but it reminds us that everything is just temporary and we should, therefore, appreciate our life in present time. We might be struggling with the loss of youth by the end of our life, or enjoy the constant increase in the perspective we gain over time.

Written lines of the story of our life

We do not have to look at our wrinkles only as signs of loss of skin firmness and density but as a consequence of the rich story of our life. Our life story, after all, is externally reflected not only in our wrinkles but also in our other small or large external “imperfections” that we are gradually collecting during our lives. It can be scars from the injury in our favourite sport or from another type of accident, thanks to which we learned something new about ourselves or about people around us. And even the scratches from our enthusiastic gardening, perhaps even small burns on our hands, after we carelessly took something good for our loved ones out of the oven. Even these are the lines of the story of our life.

Return time, yes or no?

But despite the above mentioned, when I look in the mirror in the morning and I see that the circles under my eyes will probably never disappear, even after a good night’s sleep and those lines on the face are not just a temporary thump of the pillow… it’s a little (or big?) internal fight.

So, after that, I rather try to focus only on the reflection of my eyes. It does not seem that they bear such signs of time (look once again at the picture of the native American woman at the beginning of this article). Sometimes I see the teenage or twenty-something-year-old girl who is trying to get oriented in the world, has her dreams and ideas. But most of all, when I look in the eyes reflection, I can recall all the good things I have ever experienced in my life so far, but also even the worse and bad things that I had to manage and I had successfully survived.  And I see how richer my life today is, compared to the time 10, 20, 30  years ago.

No, I´m not going to throw away my day and night creams, nor the corrector. And yes, I know I have to eat less sweet and exercise more and …. to take care of myself all the way so that I can feel good even in ten, twenty and more years from now on. But if I would have the choice – to look like in my twenties or to know what I know today? I think I know what my choice would be.

And what about you?

Please follow and like us: